Remote patient monitoring enables physicians to keep tabs on hard-to-reach patients, while keeping hospital readmission rates low.
For many patients, especially those with limited financial resources, the frequent check-ups demanded by a chronic health condition can quickly become prohibitively expensive and time-consuming. Contributing to this issue is a lack of convenient travel options: according to a study cited by NCBI, 51% of parents cite transportation barriers as the primary reason for their child missing medical appointments. Even if patients have access to a car, they may live inconveniently far from the nearest clinic. This is especially true for rural patients — 60% of Primary Medical Health Professional Shortage Areas are located in non-metropolitan areas — who must often drive long distances for even basic checkups and services.
Until recently, there were few impactful methods for improving access to care, forcing many patients suffering from chronic health conditions to choose between frequent, expensive check-ups or no monitoring at all. Remote monitoring promises an attractive alternative: a more cost-effective solution for both the patient and the medical provider.
Recent Advances in Remote Patient Monitoring
As we’ve said in the past, telehealth solutions are solving some of healthcare’s longstanding problems and expanding the reach of personal care. Forward-thinking medical practices and hospitals throughout the country are already utilizing digital channels and technologies to reliably diagnose and treat patients, prescribe medication, and instruct local nurses and physicians in training. Now, similar technology is revolutionizing patient monitoring.
Remote patient monitoring programs have found a great deal of success targeting serious illnesses and conditions at high volume. For example, Vidant Health’s program treats 600 to 700 patients suffering from congestive heart failure, diabetes, and high blood pressure at any given time. According to the Wall Street Journal, Vidant was able to reduce the volume of in-person hospital visits for these patients by 74% in 2013 alone.
Remote patient monitoring devices are also ideally suited for widespread chronic conditions like asthma. Sharp Rees-Stealy has equipped their asthma inhalers with sensors that send their nurses information detailing the frequency and efficacy with which their patients use the inhalers. Sharp Rees-Stealy staff can analyze this information to determine if and when their patients will encounter trouble breathing, thereby pursuing preventative measures before an asthma attack occurs.
BeWell Connect is another great example of a company leveraging cutting edge technologies in order to improve the quality of life for patients with conditions that require ongoing monitoring from a physician or specialist. Its wide range of devices, from thermometers to blood sugar meters to health and fitness trackers, are all connected and managed through a single, intuitive app. This provides seamless access to vital health information for the entire family, helping patients and caregivers stay one step ahead of health-related issues without having to take on the often untenable cost and time burden of regular in-office visits.
In the near future, expect medical professionals to develop more holistic applications for remote patient monitoring technology. Instead of targeting a single condition, such devices could track patient health at a large scale — think of this as a yearly physical performed on a rolling basis, with no need for an in-office check-up until an issue actually arises.
Independa has already pioneered a comprehensive monitoring system for senior citizens hoping to maintain an independent lifestyle. The platform, which is built into smartphones and smart TVs, sets regular reminders for medication and testing schedules and sends the results to professional caregivers or family members. It also notifies caregivers if there is no movement in the home for a prolonged period.
If these technologies continue to advance at their current pace, we’ll likely see a widespread adoption across patient demographics in no time at all. As InformationWeek reports, “The U.S. market for advanced patient monitoring systems has grown from $3.9 billion in 2007 to $8.9 billion in 2011 and is forecast to reach $20.9 billion by 2016.” As these remote monitoring tools become more widely implemented, they’re poised to revolutionize both quality of life and quality of care — one patient at a time.